A year or so ago, I read an article by Amanda Hesser on the future of food writing. As someone (clearly) interested in putting my kitchen work into words, I soaked up every morsel of advice. Amongst the facts and figures, one idea stood out: Amanda suggested to, “never eat the same meal twice. If you want to be knowledgeable about food, you need to experience it yourself.” I could not agree more. Whether or not you are a professional or home cook, it’s easy to retreat to your old standby meals. Everyone has one or two up their sleeve, whether it’s an omelet or osso buco. We turn to them for comfort and familiarity. I challenge you this: once you get the hang of a particular dish or recipe, tweak it. Swap out chicken breast for thighs, trade the baby spinach for those long stalks of Swiss chard. It could be as minute as a drizzle of good olive oil, a splash of vinegar. You may be pleased what you discover when you go off course a bit.
Kale, White Bean and Sausage Soup
This soup is one of my go-to meals, particularly as the weather grows colder. Each time it comes out a bit different – I’ll try a new type of sausage, leafy green or herb combination. Each new version gives me a little more knowledge of flavor.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3 bulk hot Italian sausage links, casing removed*
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 carrots, diced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 8 cups chicken stock
- 1 teaspoon each chopped fresh rosemary and thyme
- 1 dried bay leaf
- 1 bunch Lacinato kale, stemmed and chopped
- 2 cups cooked white beans (from a 15-ounce can or cooked from dry*)
- Chili flakes
- Olive oil, fresh grated Parmesan cheese and black pepper, for serving
In a large soup pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and cook, breaking up any large chunks, until deep golden brown and crispy. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.
Add onion and carrot to pot with sausage drippings. Saute for about 5-10 minutes, until soft and translucent. You may need to add a bit more oil. Add stock, herbs and bay leaf and bring to a boil. Add kale and reduce to heat. Simmer on medium-low for about 10 minutes. Add beans and sausage and cook for a few minutes longer to heat through. Remove bay leaf. Taste and season with salt, pepper and chili flakes.
Garnish each bowl with a drizzle of olive oil, Parmesan cheese and fresh black pepper.
You may purchase bulk sausage in casing at the grocery meat counter or in a butcher shop. When I am in the neighborhood, I stock up at The Meat Hook in Brooklyn. I mean, come on, you have your choice of ‘Classy’ or ‘Trashy’.